Queer Places:
77 Edgware Rd, London W2 2AJ, UK
Southampton Old Cemetery, Cemetery Rd, Southampton SO15 7NN, UK

Josias Torriano was born in Nellore, Madras, India on 12 March 1788, the son of William Harcourt Torriano, an officer in the East India Company.·He entered the Madras Infantry as a cadet in 1804, became a Lieutenant in 1805, a Captain of the 16th N I in 1818.·He moved to England in 1819 and entered St Catherine’s College, Cambridge. He resigned his commission in 1820 and obtained a BA in 1824, and a MA in 1830.·He was ordained deacon in 1823 in Salisbury, and became priest at St David’s Wales in 1824. He was Vicar of Stanstead Mountfichet, Essex, from 1828 to 1851, and appears in the 1851 census there. He Seems to have retired to obscurity after this. He appears in no census returns for 1861 and 1871, but in the 1863 Southampton P.O. Directory he was living at 4 Sussex place.·His wife Louise died in 1874 in Richmond, Surrey, and was buried in Brompton Cemetery.

His daughter Lydia Louisa, who had been born in India, was married in 1856 at St George’s Hanover square to Charles Sidney Hanson, whom she divorced in 1861. When she died in 1883, she was recorded as Louisa Hanson Torriano.·Josias died in Kensington early in 1877, but he was buried at Southampton Old Cemetery only in June 1880. His daughter Lydia had his body embalmed, and she kept him in a glass-topped coffin in her bathroom for three years.·

Lydia Louisa Torriano is buried in the same vault, and with them there is Sydney Lomer and Ella Lomer (sister? daughter?).

The Torriano family is known in London as priests and merchants. There is a Torriano Avenue in Kentish Town. Signor Torriano’s houseis mentioned in Pepys’ diary for 1659-60.There are a Torriano pub and a cinema there today.

Lydia Louisa Hanson Torriano seems to have been quite an eccentric lady, whose life was touched by tragicomic events many of which were disclosed in a law suit contesting her will in March 1884.

Lydia had been born in India in 1830 while her father Josias was a Captain in the Indian Army. The family later came to England where Josias attended Cambridge University, became a priest, and was for many years vicar of Stansted in Essex, after which he retired to live in London.

In 1856 Lydia aged 26 married an Army doctor Charles Hanson who immediately after the ceremony left her to go to Alexandria on military duty. He returned in 1858 but in 1861 she was granted a divorce due to his “matrimonial offences” (desertion and infidelity according to some). Afterwards she sometimes lived with her parents, but from time to time took a house or apartment and sometimes advertised for lodgers. One lady (Mrs Salisbury) who had lived with the Torriano family said Lydia did not act or speak like a lady; she used indecent language and would sit up all night talking to her pictures. She drank a lot and had a passionate temper.

Although she was apparently very fond of her father, Lydia did not get on at all with her mother. When her mother died in 1874 Lydia was far from sober at the funeral in Brompton Cemetery, and said how ridiculous it was to make such a fuss over an old woman. She showed marked hilarity and spoke of running off with one of her cousins who was there. She reproached an attendant for keeping the old devil alive so long.

In the opinion of her cousin Charles Edward Torriano, a retired Army Colonel, she was “cracked”. Another cousin William Harcourt Torriano, who was a barrister, said Lydia was always strange in her manner. She told him she had five children, but he never saw them.

After her mother's death she lived mostly at 77 Edgware Road with her elderly father who had settled all his property on her before his death leaving her with over £700 a year. Here she kept a collection of prints of an indecent nature; at least they were enough to shock those of her servants who saw them.

One time when she was staying at Windsor she sent a telegram to Mr Mitchell, a London upholsterer and undertaker, asking him to come and measure her father for his coffin. On arrival he found the old man alive and well. Later she asked Mitchell to arrange to sell her collection of erotic prints, which he did, but at the auction she bought them all in herself. These prints were in her possession when she died, and during the law suit mentioned earlier they were placed in a private room at the Law Courts and there inspected by the jury – all men of course, and probably delighted at the opportunity.

It was after her father's death in early 1877 that she really went to pieces. Many witnesses reported that she drank copiously, and also took large amounts of opium. When Josias really died, Lydia had him embalmed and placed in a glass-topped coffin, which she kept in her bathroom. She gave various reasons for this at different times: in order to converse with his spirit; that she did not wish her relatives to know that he was dead; that a large sum of money was dependent on it; and in order to have a mausoleum prepared for him in Southampton, despite the fact that her mother had been buried at Brompton.

Now completely independent she hired servants, but never allowed them to sleep in the same house as herself, but rented other apartments for them. At one apartment in Bayswater she rented four rooms which she fitted with stoves, but the only inhabitants were two dogs, two pigeons and some small birds. She rented a cigar shop in Edgware Road where she placed her maid to sell the cigars, but it was not known if it ever did any business. Then she had the idea to use the upper part of the cigar store in Edgware Road for use as a restaurant and hotel, and bought some furniture, silver and glasses. John Garner was hired as a butler to Mrs Torriano in June 1882, but The Hotel Giani never opened and Garner never served a single glass of wine. He said that in the cellar there were parcels of draperies, some of which had been opened. Lydia had conversations with him in which she drifted into rambling and nonsense, and once indecently exposed herself to him. Other servants were engaged to work in this hotel, and Lydia once remarked to him what fine limbs the (female) cook had.

Kate Warden was engaged as a cook by Mr Garner and was at the hotel for a month, but was never called upon to cook anything, as Mrs Torriano sent out to a cook-house for food. On one occasion she was called into the drawing room and shown the nude pictures on the wall and Lydia said that if Kate would pose in a similar manner she would send for a photographer. After Kate indignantly refused that offer, Lydia asked Kate to undress, and when this suggestion too was refused she angrily threatened to call down the spirit of her father, and ordered her downstairs. Later she asked Kate if she would go to Paris with her and said they would get on well together. She frequently asked to see Kate's legs, so she did not like to go near her any more than she could help.

Mrs Torriano took apartments in November 1882 at a boarding house in Ryde run by Emma Brading and her mother. According to Emma she used to burn 6 or 8 candles while staying up all night, apparently troubled by the spirits of her parents who visited her in the form of cats and dogs. Once she wrapped a teapot in her flannel petticoat and put it to bed to keep it warm. She would keep up an imaginary conversation all night long, and on more than one occasion had screamed for Emma in a terrible way. She was troubled by a big black dog which Emma could find no trace of, and complained that she was being watched by her relations. When it was suggested that she have someone to live with her to keep her company, Mrs Torriano flew into a rage and threatened violence. Before returning to London Mrs Torriano pressed Emma to come and visit her, but added if she did come up she was not to try to enter the house. In another bizarre act, Lydia engaged Edward Dearas a coachman, and he was given a pilot coat and peaked hat, but he never acted as coachman as she had neither carriage nor horse. She gave him dinner at a Holborn restaurant once, and told him to put the bread in his pocket for his breakfast. Leaving town to go to Windsor she gave him 6d to live on while she was away. She sent for him to meet her at Waterloo Station every day for a week but did not come. He said he too had been a witness of her indecent exposure and lewd acts, but presumably not a participant.

During 1882 Lydia made a will, followed by a codicil, in which she left the bulk of her £18,000 estate to the London Missionary Society to found “The Torriano Mission” at Tanjore in India. The will was disputed by cousins headed by William Harcourt Torriano, son of Josias' brother William. This suit was of such human interest that it was reported in newspapers all over the country from Dundee to London, but strangely not in Southampton.

In his summing up, the judge Sir James Hannen pointed out that there was nothing in the will itself that might not have been done by a perfectly sane person. One was not obliged to leave money to relatives, and many reasonable people left money to religious bodies. On the other hand her character as reported did not seem to be that of a religious person. The codicil was another matter. In it she left £1500 for the maintenance of her mother's tomb in Brompton, and only £500 for that of her father and herself in Southampton. It was up to the jury to decide on the evidence whether Mrs Torriano was of sound mind when she signed these documents. They might conclude that her behaviour was due to the temporary use of drink or drugs, but that she was sober when she made her will, or they might decide that her behaviour was evidence of chronic insanity. The jury took only half an hour to decide that she was indeed of unsound mind when she made her will and codicil. The following day the judge was asked to declare the will invalid and was also told that the matter of costs had been amicably agreed between the parties so no decision was asked of him. He agreed to pronounce against the will, and expressed his satisfaction that the question of costs had been arranged.

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  1. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/186459235/lydia-louisa-torriano
  2. http://fosoc.net/pdfs/story%20TORRIANO.pdf
  3. http://fosoc.net/pdfs/NewsTorriano.pdf